Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Directed by Jon Watts
Written by Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daly and Jon Watts & Christopher Ford and Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers

Not all superhero movies are equal. What Marvel Studios has been doing is nothing short of impressive. Whether you like their movies or not, their strategy and obvious box office successes are unavoidable when discussing their influence on the current climate in cinema. Not all superhero movies are equal. I wanted to repeat that because what Marvel has managed to do is integrate genre into their niche. Captain America: The First Avenger is a war movie, Ant-Man is a a heist movie, Guardians of the Galaxy is a sci-fi movie. With Spider-Man: Homecoming, Marvel has not only given us the second reboot of the Spider-Man character, but also its first high school movie within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. At times, if I didn’t know any better, I would have thought director Jon Watts consulted the late great John Hughes when making his film.

We first met Peter Parker, otherwise known as Spider-Man (Tom Holland) in the Captain America: Civil War installment of the MCU. In Homecoming, that is where we pick it up. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is helping to mentor Parker, who lives in Queens with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). Parker is the nerdy type, spending time with his academic decathlon team, which includes his crush Liz (Laura Herrier), Flash (Tony Revolori) and best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), but while fighting local small time crime, he uncovers a dangerous gang of criminals led by the Vulture (Michael Keaton), who use supernatural instruments from the Avengers to build powerful superweapons. After trying to alert Tony Stark of the danger of the gang, he finds himself face to face with the Vulture.

Spider-Man has never been my favorite comic book hero. Tobey Maguire’s version was too whiny for my tastes, and not funny enough. Andrew Garfield, well while I love him as an actor, The Amazing Spider-Man series was always kind of doomed. But this is a Spider-Man I can get behind! Tom Holland infuses the character with youth (Maguire and Garfield both felt too old), energy, comedy and charisma. Holland is the perfect pick for this role. He pulls off nerdy and funny extremely well, while still having the physicality the role demands (let’s be honest, he may be a nerd, but Holland is also handsome, there is no denying that).

But mostly, this film is freaking fun as hell! I think setting this story within the confines of a high school dramedy (sorry for using that term, but it fits) is a great addition to the MCU. And the film feels small. With the MCU, things have become increasingly more worldwide, more dramatic and epic in scale. What Spider-Man: Homecoming is able to be is small, which benefits it greatly. It’s a deterrent from superhero fatigue by being everything everyone loves about the MCU while also being plenty different that the viewer doesn’t have to feel weighted down by the immense stakes of world destruction, like it is with every other film in the genre. Staying small is perfect for Spider-Man, a character still in high school, still a teenager. He’s still in the training phase and seeing this part of a superhero’s development is new and refreshing in an age where origin stories and mass conflict are so pervasive.

I am generally pretty positive in the MCU on the whole. However, when I think about how many films there are, and how many more are planned, I believe the universe could use some more of the small type films like this one. Not everything needs to be world destruction and super heroism. I was never a comic book reader, but part of the charm of these characters, at least to me, has been the smaller things, which includes unique stories about fighting crime on whatever level. I know we’re ramping up for Infinity Wars, which will bring about galactic war between gods, superheros and aliens, but with Spider-Man: Homecoming we get a brief, refreshing reprieve and instead get to enjoy the follies of a teenage superhero just trying to make the world a little better.

*** 1/2 – Great


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